It is through his work as a snowmobile repairman that my dad learned an important life metaphor: Sometimes, in order to get something to work right, to bring it back to top-notch condition, you have to take it completely apart.
It’s the idea that beauty is so often born out of chaos, that having complete order sometimes first requires complete disorder.
If a snowmobile is not working properly, my dad knows to take the entire thing apart, to splay out all of the pieces in parts in a mess around him and, little by little, put the thing back together. It is a messy process. But in the end, he always succeeds in discovering what fix is needed, which part or piece is not working.
In the end, he never fails to get that machine back to its top-notch condition.
It’s probably because I am the daughter of this snowmobile dealer that this metaphor works so well for me. Here is how it plays out on the personal front:
Right now, I feel like my life is splayed out before me in pieces and parts. Mother. Writer. Wyoming native. City dweller. And here I stand in the middle of the chaos, a place with lots of questions, trying to figure out how all these parts fit and function together.
These roles and identities have worked together before. I have been a mother for almost three years now, a writer for my entire life. My husband and I – and now our entire little family – have bumped around from place to place across the country, as my husband’s job demands we go where the current engineering project is.
With each move, I question my identity, how a place shapes and defines me, us. With each transition, I question how these roles shift and move to make room for what’s most important.
But here I am again, at a place of uncertainty. In California for barely a year, rootless and far away from family. Soon to be a mother of two, with the need to write still fierce and alive. Homesick, but for what? The Rockies where I grew up? The Midwest, where I have spent the last 10 years? I don’t know. Perhaps simply a place with roots.
What I do know is that out of chaos beauty can and does come. Out of disorder, order can blossom and thrive. How is it that our two-and-a-half-year-old son, who was once a messy cluster of cells within me, is now walking and running and playing, hugging and loving and saying things like, “I am happy?” How is it that we have managed to meet such compassionate, loving people no matter what community or region we find ourselves in? How is it that words manage to come together, to flow in avenues of conversation no matter how tired or uninspired or anxious about the future I am?
Sometimes, we have to take a thing completely apart and closely examine all of the pieces before putting it back together to get it into a thrumming order. I am here, in this messy place. Tools at my side, I am chiseling away. The baby will come, any day now, and we will grope around to find a new normal, a “normal” where the roles of parent and writer function beautifully, hand-in-hand. Like my dad and his disassembled snowmobile, I will put these pieces back together, fire up the machine, and see how it runs.